Can Magic Johnson Save Los Angeles Clippers as Sponsors Bail?

Los Angeles Clippers

Reports out today indicate that Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim Partners are investigating the purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers after their owner, Donald Sterling, was recorded while allegedly spouting racist views, including telling his girlfriend to not bring “blacks” to Clippers games and to not post photos of herself with African-Americans on her social media accounts.  Yahoo! Sports is reporting that a source close to Johnson’s business told them on Sunday night that Johnson is “absolutely interested.”

Johnson and Mark Walter, who is part of the Guggenheim Partners, already own the Los Angeles Dodgers and have expressed interest in the past in buying the Los Angeles Lakers, which is owned by the Buss Family.  Although Johnson played for the Lakers throughout his basketball career, owning the rival Los Angeles Clippers would be an attractive opportunity for him.  Yahoo! Sports reports that a league official who is closely involved in franchise purchases and sales has confirmed that buying the Clippers is “100 percent Magic’s plan.”  Meanwhile, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports that her source says that Johnson has had no talks with anyone regarding buying the Clippers.

In the meantime, sponsors of the Los Angeles Clippers are rushing away from the team and Sterling in light of his allegedly racist views.  Kia Motors America, CarMax, AQUAHydrate, State Farm Insurance and Virgin America, all of which have supported the Clippers financially,  have severed ties with the franchise as of Monday.  ESPN sports business reporter, Darren Rovell, is reporting that sponsor Red Bull is also halting their marketing pursuits with the Clippers.

The NBA is planning to announce details of their investigation into the matter on Tuesday.  The news conference, held by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, will take place Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET in New York City and follows a pledge by Silver on Sunday that the investigation would occur quickly. Should the league’s inquiry find that Sterling is in fact the voice heard on the audio recording, they have a right and the precedent for imposing a strict penalty.  Not only is the public calling for Sterling’s immediate ouster as franchise owner, but the league could issue a long-term suspension as well as a heavy fine.  A similar offense by former president and owner of the Cincinnati Reds caused Marge Schott to be suspended for a term of two years.  Schott later sold her controlling ownership of the team.

Sterling, a former real estate tycoon, has yet to issue a public comment regarding the airing of his allegedly racist views, which have created massive outrage across the U.S.  Not only is the public speaking out about Sterling’s recorded rant, but his estranged wife, Shelly, has also issued a statement denouncing her husband’s views. Until the results of the investigation are released and Sterling is confirmed to be the voice on the tape, no league action can be taken against him.  It appears as though Sterling’s sponsors and family are not waiting for confirmation as they quickly distance themselves from the Los Angeles Clippers and Sterling himself.

By Jennifer Pfalz

NBA News Source

USA Today


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